It looks like something from a science fiction movie, perhaps a giant cocoon left by the pod people waiting to hatch and enslave humanity.
Truth is, that giant, multicolored dome that seems to swell up from nothing in Hot Springs State Park in Thermopolis wasn’t left by aliens and it’s not a miracle of geology that’s baffled scientists for centuries.
It’s the Teepee Fountain, and its origins are far from a mystery.
People made it.
Underneath this large outcropping of mineral deposits is a steel pipe, first put there nearly 115 years ago to vent the area’s famous mineral hot springs.
When the mineral deposits started building up around it, a pyramid-shaped structure was built around the pipe, which over the decades has built up to form the growing dome people see today.
While it’s not a natural formation, Teepee Fountain has become a unique and popular unique draw to the area, said Chris Delay, superintendent of Hot Springs State Park.
“Oh, it’s popular,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “People take photos there daily. In fact, we’re talking about putting up a selfie stand so they can get the full fountain in it. We claim it’s the most photographed spot in the park.”
Because the pipe remains an active vent for the area’s famous mineral springs, it continues to grow as the minerals build up around it, Delay said.
“It was built to let steam vent from the pipes that carry the mineral water in it,” he said. “It was a 12-foot-high wooden vent, later replaced with a 25-foot steel pipe.
“Once the water cools to about 101, 102 degrees, it starts depositing the minerals out of it. And it just builds and has been growing since.”
Although he’s not sure just how thick the thing has grown, Delay said he thinks staff will start measuring its diameter each year to see how fast it’s growing.
It’s The Same Water
What’s building up around that pipe is the same as what draws thousands to the park each year to view and get into the mineral springs.
There are 27 minerals in the water, but lime and gypsum are the most prominent, Delay said.
“This water comes out of our big spring and goes down to the pipe,” he said. “It was built because at the time they were getting a lot of mineral deposits in the pipes, so the superintendent at the time thought this would keep that from happening.”
That’s not a problem anymore, however.
“Now, the purpose of (the vent) is just to keep it growing,” he added. “It’s a pretty cool feature. We love it.”
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